It is very hard for me to write about what is going on in Catalonia right now. The feelings are intense, complex and contradictory and words are so often used or felt as weapons that it scares me to write them on this blog. What follows is of course only my personal view on the matter.
I did not like the twisting of laws that the Catalan Parliament (led by a coalition of pro-independence parties) did to pass the referendum bill that was then suspended by the Constitutional Court. That is why I did not vote. It was a very difficult decision for me, because I, as a large majority of Catalan citizens, think at this stage we really need a referendum in which every one feels called to participate and can express her views after a careful discussion of the implications of the different scenarios. I think ends do not justify means and that formal procedures, rule of law and guarantees should be respected. I hope we will be able to have this referendum some day, because I think Catalan people must be able to decide their future. And because there is no other way out of here. In my University the Council recently supported to join the National Pact for a Referendum and I voted in favour. But I do not think the Catalan parliament can legitimately make a unilateral declaration of independence now.
In spite of not voting, I felt I had to be there in some way. I spent most of my weekend at the voting station in my village. I was there on Saturday evening, early on Sunday morning with coffee for those that had spent the night there, later again to bring some food for those people of all ages that had spent the whole rainy day there and were keeping the place open until the evening with regular threats of police intervention. I felt a bit awkward but I was also impressed by their determination, their commitment, their tense quietness. I felt I had to be somewhat close to these people. So I did not vote but I took part, one of my many contradictions these days. It probably shows that I find it hard to find a place to stand in all this mess.
I took part because although I profoundly dislike the actions of recent Catalan governments on many grounds (including the use of the independence issue to cover all sorts of pressing social problems), I also dislike the actions that Spanish government (and the Spanish state) has done to limit the self-governing aspirations of the Catalan people. I do not think Catalans are brain-washed or conditioned by a wicked political elite, even if this debate on the relationship with Spain has removed attention from other uncomfortable but extremely important issues like corruption or austerity cuts. The aspirations of independence of a large number of them (according to polls about 40%) are legitimate. They have increased significantly as a result of the uneasiness generated by the Constitutional Court amendment of the Estatut (Catalan constitution) in 2010 after an appeal promoted by the PP. Things could have been very different if this Estatut had been respected, and if a Constitutional reform had been agreed among the parties. Hélàs, it did not go that way. We are now in situation in which a Spanish minister has revoked all Catalan autonomy without even going to Parliament to discuss the issue. Astonishing. And we will see what is to come.
This is the result of the fact that, unfortunately, the Spanish state is not really a federal state with a generalised federal political culture that respects diversity, self-government and shared rule. Sometimes I have the feeling that some instances in Spain prefer an independent Catalonia than a Catalonia that speaks Catalan within Spain. I know many people in Spain who do not share this view (there have been many demonstrations in Spain in support of the Catalan referendum), but many PSOE and specially PP representatives are probably more extreme on this than their voters. They dig in the heels of the Constitution as it is, but this Constitution has become too narrow to solve this problem that we have. And Podemos is not yet strong enough.
The PP has almost no presence in Catalunya but as you know it is the largest party in Spain and by using the Catalan question (ie. Spanish nationalism) to win votes in other parts of Spain, it feeds both anti-Catalan feelings in Spain and anti-Spanish feelings in Catalunya. The Catalan pro-independence parties in Catalunya of course also use their tools to increase their electoral support, but I have to say that Rajoy does a large part of their work. The result is two political entities, Catalunya and Spain, drifting apart. And also a deepening division within Catalunya.
Above all, I am against the violent repression of the expression of legitimate political views. What went on this weekend was an amazing mobilization of some civil society organisations in pursue of their political objectives. The police actions were unnecessary and disproportionate, unacceptable in a State that calls itself a democracy. As an insightful journalist mentioned yesterday, this hard reaction by the police follows an understanding of what a State should do that fits into the XIX century, perhaps the XX century, but not into the XXI century. Over 50 years ago Almond and Verba told us that a political system in which institutions and political culture do not come along consistently together cannot be a stable system. What we need is to adjust our institutions to better fit citizens’ values and preferences, not a State behaving like a Leviathan. Not a crash.
Catalunya has given me so much, I love this country deeply and I suffer to see what is going on. I do not want a Catalonia independent from Spain. I honestly don’t think we would be better off. I do not want a Spanish state imposing itself. There is a place between independence and status-quo. In a situation like this it is impossible that only one view prevails humiliating the other side, we need to find a compromise, however difficult this is. The Catalan government should stop its flight forward. The Spanish state has a responsibility to offer an alternative that is appealing for Catalan citizens, or independence will inevitably come, sooner or later. Listening to the Spanish prime minister on Sunday or the King yesterday it all looks pretty hopeless. None of them had a word for the citizens of Catalunya that are in my place, an impossible place to be.
I end with the hartbreaking poem by Joan Maragall, Oda a Espanya, conveniently edited while I hope for a happy ending.
On ets, Espanya? – no et veig enlloc.
No sents la meva veu atronadora?
No entens aquesta llengua – que et parla entre perills?
Has desaprès d’entendre an els teus fills?